“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” –George Bernard Shaw
That’s a pretty fair description of the wrangling we’ve all seen across the media for the past year.
And, it’s one reason I stopped blogging as much for a while. Having a helpful, distinctive voice when emotions are running high is next to impossible. People have their radars up just looking for bias and they react without much thought.
Recently I posted something on social media that annoyed a number of people. It was a fair article from the NYT’s, but its provocative title drew fire. I understand we all have that friend or colleague who forwards echoing propaganda. That kind of demagoguery usually backfires and ends debate rather than inviting it. It starts to appear as though everyone is just leveraging for their point of view, so we grow dismissive, putting the opposition in a box.
Two cautions about boxes….
Beware of the “Spiritual” box
Like a child eating dinner, some people want faith and politics on the same plate but not to touch. They’re more comfortable thinking of the spiritual and the material as separate. This is not a biblical perspective. It’s Deism—the idea that God wound up the universe and stepped way back.
(I hope) most people who read my stuff expect me to deal fairly with issues. I’m not perfect, and when I stray, boy does iron start sharpening iron! But staying entirely above the fray of politics is a cop out. It contributes to a disconnect between the pursuit of God and the living of everyday life. Nonsense. If there is no God, then everything is permissible and nothing is spiritual. If God exists, then everything has spiritual implications.
Reactive people need help thinking outside their box
I appreciate Shaw’s caution, about wrestling with a pig. When you weigh-in on a discussion that is just so much “tit for tat,” you can get drawn downward. Indeed I launched this blog hoping to elevate online dialogue and build bridges, not to throw stones while guarding my glass house. But my larger purpose is to underscore the relevance of faith in daily life. We must risk getting into the fray.
Edwin Friedman puts it this way. “You must stay in the triangle without getting triangulated.” By analogy, parents shouldn’t get reduced to the level of their kids’ petty arguments, but they should get down on their level to model how to do it differently. So too with civil discourse. The question is not whether to engage but how.
“If you have all knowledge…but have not love, you are nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).
Clifford W Foreman says
People need to watch Frontline’s “The Divided States of America” (the first part aired on PBS last night), which is an account of the last eight years and how we got where we’ve gotten to. If nothing else it shows the judgment of God being worked out in our culture. I can’t help but hope that somehow Christians can be part of the solution. We don’t need so much to agree with each other as to learn to listen, to be honest, to apply biblical principles above partisanship. That we might disagree about healthcare or the minimum wage shouldn’t keep us from talking to each other and working together. We need to be honest and fare, to make sure that what we are saying is true and not fake news. We need to stop buying in to lies and exaggerations. We need to find common ground and stop condemning compromise. And we need to be willing to admit to evil wherever it is found, in both parties and in every area of our culture. I just had a former student tell me that she can’t understand why anyone would be appalled by Trump. But if I expect her to employ her moral sense, I need to be willing to condemn the immorality in people and the political positions that I’ve supported. I have to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, even if I am appalled at Nebuchadnezzar. I have to pray for repentance on both sides. I need to be a Christian and not a partisan. Can we do it? It would be nice if, even in a polarized nation, Christians would be people who could constructively love one another across all lines. It would be nice if politicians could expect Christians to support them when they are honestly seeking to solve the nation’s problems.
Mark McCommon says
I like what you shared. I have also witnessed the hate on both sides of our divided nation. It is important to recognize it is divided. We are light years apart on so many issues it’s mind boggling. The disagreements are on an extreme visceral level that intellectualism can not appease. Many of these people have resisted God so much, that God is pushing them away from Him. I don’t hold out much hope at all for a united states. Instead I see a germinating seed for a civil war. To ignore this possibility is just sticking your head in the sand.